Intellectual Property and Emerging Technologies

Intellectual Property and Emerging Technologies

The New Biology

Queen Mary Studies in Intellectual Property series

Edited by Matthew Rimmer and Alison McLennan

This unique and comprehensive collection investigates the challenges posed to intellectual property by recent paradigm shifts in biology. It explores the legal ramifications of emerging technologies, such as genomics, synthetic biology, stem cell research, nanotechnology, and biodiscovery.

Chapter 9: Stem Cell Patents: Looking for Serenity

Amina Agovic

Subjects: economics and finance, environmental economics, environment, biotechnology, environmental economics, innovation and technology, technology and ict, law - academic, intellectual property law


Amina Agovic Human embryonic stem cell research is the subject of great hope and controversy. International and regional policies on stem cell research are complex and lack harmonisation. Recently, however, the policy battles in respect of innovation in stem cell research have begun to shift from controversies within research to skirmishes over patent law and related intellectual property rights. Human embryonic stem cells are generally harvested from the inner cell mass of a blastocyst-stage embryo and this necessitates that an embryo is destroyed. This inevitable destruction of the human embryo is a major cause of controversy in relation to not only the research itself, but also the patenting of research results. Moreover, this embryo destruction was a primary cause for the European Patent Office (EPO) to reject patent applications such as the Edinburgh (T1079/03), the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) (T1374/04) and the CIT (T522/04). In the United States, ever since the isolation of the first human embryonic stem cell line in 1998, many scientists have increasingly complained about the hindering effects of the WARF stem cell patents on possibly life-saving research involving human embryonic stem cells. Now, the latest ruling on the American WARF patent has the potential to alter the patentability criteria in life sciences. Both the European and the American WARF cases illustrate the ethical conundrums surrounding patenting human embryonic stem cells. As a result, ethical tensions surrounding patentability of human embryonic stem cells require a better understanding of patentability of human embryonic stem cells in...

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